Annunciation Day: 25th March
The celebration of Annunciation Day does not have a clear origin, although it is believed to be already celebrated in the 4th century, a period of the diffusion of the Marian cult that will culminate with the definition of Mary "Dei Genetrix", Mother of God, in the Council of Ephesus of 431.
The fact that a place of worship existed since the beginning of time at the Grotto of the Annunciation suggests it is highly probably that a liturgical commemoration of the Annunciation Feast was also carried out there.
Some major Marian festivities which in the evangelical and apocryphal stories and in Marian dogma have origins in the Holy Land are celebrated ceremoniously in the places that preserve their memory:
- The Annunciation, on 25th March, at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth;
- The Visitation, on 31st May at the sanctuary of the Visitation in Ain-Karem;
- The Assumption, celebrated on 15th August with a moment of prayer at Mary’s tomb in Jerusalem;
- The Nativity, on 8th September at the Church of Saint Anne in Jerusalem.
The Custody of the Holy Land celebrates the Annunciation Day in Nazareth with the ceremonial entry of the Patriarch in the Basilica, evensong on 24th March in preparation for the ceremonial celebration the following day. After the ceremonial evensong, there is a late night wake in the Holy Grotto.
The morning of 25th is a moment of great joy and participation for the local Christian community and represents the culmination of life in the Sanctuary.
At the end of the celebration there is a procession around the Grotto, as a symbol of the Incarnation. During the procession, the Book of Gospels is carried ceremoniously. This is a symbol of the Word that in this place became Flesh. Moreover, the Guardian of the convent carries the Golden rose, a gift offered by John Paul II during his pilgrimage in 2000. It symbolises the good odour of Christ carried in the womb of the Blessed Virgin.